Mind your Manners: Sliding Standards Impede Student Success - Glasshouse Christian College

Mind your Manners: Sliding Standards Impede Student Success

  • March 27, 2024

Mind your Manners: Sliding Standards Impede Student Success

Did you know that it is bad manners in Japan to leave your chopsticks standing upright in your bowl of rice? Or that if you stick your tongue out in Tibet, it is taken as a form of greeting and respect? In some parts of the Middle East, crossing your legs can be seen as disrespectful because you may be showing the soles of your feet! Why? I have no idea but these manners are important in these countries and it made me think about what is acceptable manners in Australia.

However, even in Australia, the concept of good manners varies widely between generations, cultures, backgrounds and regions. For example, at a family gathering Nana might see it as rude that her grandchildren are on their phones but the grandchildren might feel that Nana is being unreasonable about the demand to put their phones away. Showing respect for each generation is a good way forward but compromises are challenging. 

Shakespeare on Teenage Manners

Teenagers cop most of the blame for lack of manners and even Shakespeare was disdainful of this age group when he said, “I would there were no age between ten and three-and-twenty, or that youth would sleep out the rest; for there is nothing in the between but getting wenches with child, wronging the ancientry, stealing, fighting.” Like Shakespeare, parents everywhere might want their teens to sleep through these years because they are challenging for everyone. 

Our teens are going through physical, emotional and social changes that are often scary for them with feelings too big to handle well and it doesn’t always make for harmonious homes. 

Understanding the challenges our teens face often results in us going too soft and we lower our expectations from them.  We make excuses for their bad manners or behaviour instead of finding a way forward that works for them, us, their school and society. Good manners seem to be the first thing we overlook for a peaceful household but I believe it should be the most important.

Good Manners begin with Respect

I believe the most important manner for our children and teens to learn is respect. It is our second GCC core value for a reason. Respect promotes healthy relationships, aids in conflict resolution and creates a harmonious environment. 

However, respect is the first thing to be tossed out the window after the age of ten. All of a sudden our adolescents start to become disrespectful, think they know everything and don’t want to listen to anyone. So where do we go from here? How do we teach our children and teens respect when they don’t ‘feel’ respectful?

Ground Rules: Back to Basics

We go to work when we don’t feel like it, cook dinner when we are tired and run our children to different activities when we would rather be doing something else so I believe the best way forward is to teach our children to show respect regardless of their feelings. You can’t force someone to feel a certain way however, we can demand basic good manners from our children.

Respect can be difficult to identify. You know when you feel disrespected but your teen may not realise that their actions or attitude are seen that way. They are in their own bubble and it is difficult for them to think of others. Therefore, the way forward needs to be focussed on basic behaviours that you might need to discuss/negotiate within your family. 

I would encourage you to begin with the basics.

Four Basic Behaviours to Encourage Good Manners

Role model good manners 

If you don’t show good manners to your child, family or others, then there is no point in reading any further. The battle is already lost. 

If you are still reading, then I want to challenge you to continue to show good manners when your teen is challenging you and being disrespectful and you are tired and frustrated. This is hard but don’t lower your standards or let the emotions of feeling disrespected make you compromise your behaviour. 

Please and Thank You

Insist that your child always says, please and thank you. They might say it with a surly undertone but insist on these basic good manners and it will build toward respect and gratitude and become a lifelong habit. 

This is one custom that is universal and insisting on these manners now will set your teen up for success later in life. 

Digital Etiquette

On a sliding scale, I believe digital etiquette could have slopped its way right to the bottom of the good manners line graph. It’s also one of the harder manners to teach. Teens have no idea why it would be seen as bad manners to be on their phones when a visitor arrives or at the family dinner table (for example). 

Chances are they won’t understand no matter how well you explain it (but try to anyway). They don’t know any other way and all their friends don’t see anything wrong with being on mobiles while they hang out together. The conversation needs to be around showing respect and then putting in rules that are concrete and achievable. For example, the rule might be that when Nana visits, no one should be on their phone but if the visit goes longer than three hours, they can slip away to check on messages for five minutes and then rejoin the visit. 

Many families have a ‘no technology at the table rule’ but if it is the adult who has the problem, the rules go out the window. If you haven’t built boundaries around good digital etiquette, begin with this one and work on the others. You will be surprised that the less technology the child or teen has, the less they are addicted to it. 

Good Manners in Speech

Swearing is so common in Australia that some of the ‘softer’ words are widely used in commercial advertising. You might have grown up with swearing yourself and don’t notice when someone drops the ‘F-bomb’ however, good manners in speech are vital for your teen to succeed in life.

Unfortunately, swearing is acceptable in many social situations but it is still taboo at school, in the workforce and I hope, in your family. The problem with swearing is that it soon becomes part of our vernacular and a lifetime habit that is challenging to break. If you regularly swear in your family, your teen will find it difficult to regulate his language at school and may end up earning demerits. In the workforce, there can even be legal consequences for using offensive language. 

Help your teen succeed in life by insisting on good manners in speech. 

Good Manners Affect Everything

There is so much more to good manners than these four points. Table etiquette, honesty, learning how to listen to others, apologising sincerely, being punctual, and the list goes on.

Ultimately, good manners are about more than just politeness; they’re about respect for others. By instilling these values in our children and teens, we equip them to succeed in the world with dignity and grace.

Mike Curtis, Principal

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